Diabetes mellitus, or simply diabetes, is a chronic, lifelong condition that affects a person’s ability to healthily manage and produce insulin; in other words, it severely hinders the body’s ability to use the energy found in food. If left unmanaged, the ailment can cause blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, stroke, and ultimately death.
There are 2 primary types of diabetes: the more serious type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes which is also an autoimmune disease) where the body is incapable of producing insulin on it’s own, and the less severe type 2 diabetes (adult-onset diabetes) where the body produces inadequate amounts of insulin. The former requires consistent supplemental insulin, often in the form of syringes and insulin pens, while the latter can be better controlled with good diet and nutrition, but may still require medication. Although diabetes can be healthily managed, there is currently no known cure.
Using Cannabis to Treat Diabetes
Cannabis is a complex medicinal plant that may actually be used to treat a variety of debilitating symptoms caused by a surprisingly large number of ailments. It’s usefulness as a non-lethal medicine (you cannot die from an overdose of cannabis) cannot be overstated and it’s versatility in terms of how it can be consumed and as to how it can be useful for so many illnesses is something to be excited about. However, it is important to remember that consulting with your primary care physician should be your first priority when considering incorporating cannabis into one’s medical regiment and that cannabis is to be used as an adjunct therapy and not a replacement. It is also your responsibility to communicate with your doctor as to how your use of cannabis has affected your health and of your progress with utilizing medical cannabis.
Those suffering from Diabetes will be pleased to hear that recent scientific medical studies show that cannabis can be useful in the treatment of the disease. One exciting study published in the American Journal of Medicine (Penner, E, et al., May 16, 2013), concludes, “We found that marijuana use was associated with lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR, and smaller waist circumference.”
Even more medical studies have shown that cannabis may be quite useful for treating individuals with Diabetes for the following reasons: slowing disease progression; protecting from eye disease caused by diabetes; significantly reducing neuropathic (nerve) pain; reducing the symptoms of heart-muscle disease (cardiomyopathy); controlling blood pressure caused by silent myocardial ischemia; aiding in healthy weight loss; controlling and reducing glucose and insulin levels.
FINDINGS: EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON DIABETES
Studies indicate that cannabis may be beneficial for treating diabetes. Cannabinoids have also shown to elicit anti-inflammatory effects that effectively treat Type 1 diabetes in mice (Acharya, et al., 2017).
Other researchers found that those who consumed cannabis in the past year were more likely to possess a lower body mass index, lower fasting insulin and lower insulin resistance compared to non-users (Ngueta, Belanger, Laouan-Sidi & Lucas, 2015). Cannabinoids have also shown they can play a role in the regulation of glucose metabolism, suggesting that they’re beneficial for regulating fat tissue in humans that are obese (Pagano, et al., 2007).
Cannabinoids act upon the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) of the endocannabinoid system, which stimulates anti-inflammatory and analgesic responses (Bermudez-Silva, et al., 2008) (Di Marzo, 2008) . Because of cannabis’ anti-inflammatory effects, researchers have concluded that it can serve as a viable therapeutic option in the treatment of inflammatory diseases, like diabetes (Croxford & Yamamura, 2005). An animal study found that action on the CB1 receptor decreased non-fasting plasma glucose, improved glycemic response to glucose and enhanced insulin sensitivity (Irwin, Hunter, Frizzell & Flatt, 2008). When combined with a hypocaloric diet, blocking the CB1 receptor over one year was shown to cause a significant decrease in bodyweight and waist circumference and cause an improvement in cardiovascular risk factors (Van Gaal, et al., 2005). Another study found cannabinoids to be effective at reducing β-cell destruction, which leads to insulin deficiency and cause of type 1 diabetes (Kim, et al., 2016).
Cannabis may also assist in the management of pain associated with diabetes. In an animal study, administering cannabinoids in mice reduced diabetic-related tactile allodynia or pain resulting from a non-injurious stimulus to the skin (Dogrul, et al., 2004).
STATES THAT HAVE APPROVED MEDICAL CANNABIS FOR DIABETES
No states have specifically approved medical cannabis for the treatment of diabetes. However, a number of other states will consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of diabetes with the recommendation from a physician. These states include: California (any debilitating illness where the medical use of cannabis has been recommended by a physician), Connecticut (other medical conditions may be approved by the Department of Consumer Protection), Massachusetts (other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician), Nevada (other conditions subject to approval), Oregon (other conditions subject to approval), Rhode Island (other conditions subject to approval), and Washington (any “terminal or debilitating condition”).
In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical cannabis as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment.
In addition, Illinois has approved medical cannabis for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy, which can occur in those with diabetes. Several states have approved medical cannabis specifically to treat “chronic pain.” These states include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia. The states of Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Montana, Ohio and Vermont allow medical cannabis to treat “severe pain.” The states of Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia have approved cannabis for the treatment of “intractable pain.”
RECENT STUDIES ON CANNABIS’ EFFECT ON DIABETES
Cannabinoids effectively reduce diabetes-related pain.
Cannabinoids blocks tactile allodynia in diabetic mice without attenuation of its antinociceptive affected pain.
Beneficial Cannabinoids and Terpenoids Useful for Treating Diabetes
Very recent studies have shown that Cannabidiol (CBD) was useful for lowering incidents of diabetes in animal models; that CBD has protective properties against both the vision impairing symptoms of diabetes and against cardiomyopathy (complications of the heart) is also important to note. Additionally, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been shown to reduce artificially elevated glucose levels in mouse models - human trials are definitely in need.
Other studies also show that Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) may be useful for controlling unhealthy weight in the obese individual, which may help in controlling the symptoms of diabetes. Two major characteristics of cannabis may also benefit those suffering from diabetes: 1) cannabis has vasodilator properties and that it helps to improve blood flow, and 2) cannabis may help to significantly reduce blood pressure over time.
Last but not least, the following chart denotes which cannabinoids and terpenoids work synergistically with each other for possible therapeutic benefit:
Americans For Safe Access Condition-based Booklets
These booklets summarize the history of medical cannabis and the recent research used to treat a variety of conditions, including Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Pain, Arthritis, Gastro-Intestinal Disorders, Movement Disorders, HIV/AIDS, and conditions related to Aging. (About Americans For Safe Access)
A Patient's Guide to Medical Cannabis
This guide for patients who use medical marijuana (cannabis) covers everything you need to know. Created by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a non-profit advocacy organization, this publication will help individuals who are using or considering cannabis treatments to better educate themselves, their families and their physicians. ASA has been developing information resources about medical marijuana (cannabis) for patients, their families, doctors, and elected officials for over a decade.
Article: "How to Qualify for Medical Cannabis in New Mexico"
Understanding medical cannabis.Elemental Wellness Center, 2014 Jul.
Cannabis derived drug shows promise in treating type 2 diabetes.Calhoun-Rice, Sandy, et al.
Healthline News, 2013 July 23.
The impact of marijuana use on glucose, insulin, and insulin resistance among US adults.Penner, Elizabeth, et al.
The American Journal of Medicine, 2013 Jul 23, 126(7): 583-589.
The cannabinoid ?9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) ameliorates insulin sensitivity in two mouse models of obesity.Wargent, E.T., et al.
Nutrition & Diabetes, 2013 May 27, 3(5): 68.
Marijuana users have better blood sugar control.Penner, Elizabeth A, et al.
Elsevier, 2013 May 15.
Decreased prevalence of diabetes in marijuana users: cross-sectional data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) IIIRajavashisth, Tripathi, et al.
BMJ Open: Diabetes and endocrinology, 2012 Feb, 2(1).
The role of cannabis and cannabinoids in diabetes.Frisher, Martin, et al.
The British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease, 2010 Dec, 10(6): 267-273.
Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy.Rajesh, Mohanraj, et al.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2010 Dec, 56(25): 2115-2125.
Randomized placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial of cannabis-based medicinal product (Sativex) in painful diabetic neuropathy.Selvaraja, Dinesh, et al.
Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association website, 2010 Jan, 33(1): 128-130.
Beneficial effects of a cannabis sativa extract treatment on diabetes-induced neuropathy and oxidative stress.Comelli, Francesca, et al.
Phytotherapy Research, 2009 Dec, 23(12): 1678-1684.
Biological effects of THC and a lipophilic cannabis extract on normal and insulin resistant 3T3-L1 adipocytes.Gallant, M, et al.
Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, 2009 July 24, 16(10): 942-949.
Neuroprotective and blood-retinal barrier preserving effects of cannabidiol in experimental diabetes.El-Remessy, Azza B, et al.
The American Journal of Pathology: Cellular and Molecular Biology of Disease, 2006 Jan, 168(1): 235-244.
Cannabidiol lowers incidence of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice.Weiss, L, et al.
Autoimmunity, 2006, 39(2): 143-151.
Cannabinoids and the immune system: potential for the treatment of inflammatory diseases?Croxford, JL, et al.
Journal of Neuroimmunology, 2005 Sep, 166(1-2): 3-18.
Cannabinoids blocks tactile allodynia in diabetic mice without attenuation of its antinociceptive effect.Dogrul, A, et al.
Neuroscience Letters, 2004 Sep 16, 368(1): 82.